And no, Tharundil is not riding a moose...that is an Irish Elk of course.
an article on the extinct deer on the BBC.states
Despite its name, the Irish elk was found all across Europe and Asia, and in North Africa, and is technically a deer rather than an elk. It is famed for the size of its antlers, which spanned up to 4.3m and weighed 45kg. Irish elk fossils are found in large numbers in Ireland's peat bogs and many are of males that suffered from malnutrition, which suggests they lived a life much like today's red deer spending each autumn fighting for the right to mate. The Irish elk's skeleton suggests that it was an endurance runner that could wear out predators without tiring itself.
Scientific name: Megaloceros giganteus
- Giant deer,
- gigantic horn
One can only wonder how Thranduil is going to ride through Mirkwood on it; however, that remains to be seen in the second Hobbit movie.He comments on the other animals: Shaggy ponies, the awful Wargs, thrushes, robins, and the eagles.
Not discussed: The Eagles in the Simarillion are Maia, but it's unclear if the great eagles of the third age are Maia or just giant eagles.
Finally he comments on the Rhosgobel rabbits, which he says are indeed rabbits not hares. He wonders if rabbits could indeed pull a sleigh.
TheOneRingNet has a partial answer: from a recreational musher:
Dogs run long distances as a hunting pack, in the direction you point them (or the trail leads). Rabbits run in zigs and zags to avoid predators. Cats hunt by stealth, and run in short bursts. Hooking up a dozen bunnies and getting them to go in the same direction has to be challenging for Radagast, as they naturally want to run in all directions at once. His bunnies appear to be cottontail types, though a faster hare or jackrabbit might have made more sense. I’ll need to have the DVD to pause and study the species! Oh, wait, those are Rhosgobel Rabbits.
much of it is technical, but she does note that the rabbits could probably outrun a warg.
For those of you who are not Tolkien Geeks and wonder about the backstory, Tolkien Nerd has a post on the Smithsonian for your education.
One problem that Jackson faced: That Jackson had rights to LOTR and the Hobbit, but not to the Simarillion or the 13 (or is it 14) part Middle Earth series published and edited by his son Christopher.
SQPN hobbit podcast link if you prefer audio to reading.
And why discuss Hobbits when there are so many problems in the world? Read this essay from the Age (Australia):
To its literary critics, The Hobbit's success is simply a sign of widespread immaturity. The story, with its faux mediaeval cadences and reactionary archetypes, is mere escapism - intellectual comfort-food for the politically disengaged...
But we might also do well to pay attention to Tolkien's own thoughts on what he was doing. In an important essay, ''On Fairy Tales'', in which Tolkien seeks to define and defend the fantasy genre, we find him unashamed to allow that it is both escapist and backward-looking.
The impulse to escape, he argues, is indeed quite an appropriate response to the ugliness of the Industrial Age: but it also answers a sense of loss that goes deeper than that. Fairy stories and fantasy speak to the condition of humans separated from God and from other parts of the created order.
Elves and talking animals console humans in their self-wrought alienation from heavenly realms. Fairy stories reassure us that morality will be rewarded and promise-keeping will be vindicated. Magic interrupts the sad patterns and necessities of mortal life with a joyful glimmer that there might still be an intervention from beyond this world - a happy ending, or ''eucatastrophe'', as he dubbed it.